HON 394: Sex and Victorian Science

Why do Victorian descriptions of British geological history, teaming with trilobites and dinosaurs, sound more like testosterone-fueled, Oriental adventure tales and less like purely scientific descriptions? Why do nineteenth-century scientific accounts of physiology experiments conducted in British medical laboratories sound like narratives of imperial exploration and racial exploitation in Africa? Why do strident Victorian debates about vivisection and animal suffering take the form of misogynistic and homophobic slurs against animal rights activists and accusations of sexual and racial "perversion" against male scientists? Why are Victorian accounts of venomous snakebites and of the invention of antivenom brimming with anxieties about racial, sexual, and transspecies contamination? In this course, we explore a range of popular Victorian novels that engage Victorian geology, paleontology, evolutionary biology, physiology, vivisection, immunology, and archeology in order to think through the ways in which nineteenth-century British notions about race, gender, sexuality, imperialism, and colonialism powerfully, but often invisibly, shape the Victorian sciences—including their methodologies, their conception of scientific discovery, and their ways of imagining scientific knowledge and facts.

[Underling and bold]]Thesis cohort option (HON 394 + HON 493):
Are you a STEM major who would like to write a senior thesis on literature and science? Are you a non-humanities major who would like to work on a senior thesis outside of your chosen discipline but don't know where or how to start? In this course, students will be introduced to and gain ample experience in the methods of literary studies, will read a variety of fiction and nonfiction texts from the Victorian period, and will conduct original research in Victorian archives—all while learning how to produce original research in literary studies. The theme of this course should be broadly interpreted; any student interested in writing a thesis about nineteenth-century British literature is eligible to enroll. This cross-listed upper-division honors seminar is designed for majors and nonmajors.

Students can take HON 394 only, or they can combine it with HON 493 the following semester if they are interested in producing a senior thesis in literary studies. Students who enroll in HON 394 will have to option to become a part of a two-course sequence that culminates in HON 493, a thesis cohort course that will guide you through the thesis writing and defense process. Students enrolled in HON 394 in the fall and HON 493 in the spring can expect to defend and deposit in spring 2021. Both HON 394 and the two-course thesis sequence are open to all students who have successfully completed The Human Event or History of Ideas.

Course semester: 
Fall 2020
Instructor: 
Dr. David Agruss